Braille Monitor               April 2023

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Remarkably Unremarkable

by David Andrews

David AndrewsFrom the Editor: This article appeared in the Spring Issue of the Minnesota Bulletin. Here is the way it was introduced:

(Editors’ Note: Dave Andrews is a Federationist well-known for his management of the listservs and technological acumen—and possibly just as famous for his talents as a cook. In this article, we have the privilege of his thoughts on raising children and advice to new and aspiring parents.)

We can read stories in the Braille Monitor and other places about blind parents who have problems with the medical or social services establishments believing that blind people are unable to parent kids. It’s true that children do get taken away from blind parents, and blindness can be used against us in divorce proceedings and other legal matters.

I am pleased to tell you that none of this happened to me. I think there are a number of reasons that this was true including being prepared, talking to other blind people who are parents, and having a spouse that believes in the capacity of blind people to raise our kids. There is probably also a dash of luck!

First, I tried preparing myself to raise a baby. I practiced things like changing diapers and feeding on a life-sized doll. My wife was extremely helpful in showing me how to do things—thanks Michele!

Second, I talked to other blind people. Nadine and Steve Jacobson and others were very helpful. Since I am also the owner of NFB lists, I asked questions there. There are a number of lists which can be helpful. They include Blind Parents ([email protected]), Blind Kid—for sighted parents of blind children ([email protected]), and in Minnesota, Minnesota Parents ([email protected]). On these mailing lists people help each other, and support each other. None of us has all the answers—we now call this “crowd sourcing.”

This is not to say that everything was smooth sailing. For example, the kids and I were at Lumberjack Days in Stillwater one year and went up to a ride for the kids to get on. The operator said to Rosa, “Isn’t it wonderful the way you are able to take care of your dad and lead him around.” Rosa was five at the time. Who was leading whom? I calmly explained things to him. A couple times in public parks I was told that I shouldn’t have kids because I couldn’t adequately supervise them. This is a small sampling of the bumpy road of a blind parent.

This illustrates my first point, “be prepared.” You need to think about these kinds of situations in advance and rehearse possible answers. These incidents seemingly always come out of the blue when you least expect them—so you need to be prepared. You don’t want to answer out of anger or not answer at all. This is hopefully an educable moment for people, and you don’t want to lose the opportunity. I always want to come back with a sarcastic answer. But they may not get it, and if they do, it will only make them mad. So stay calm and logical. Thinking of possible situations that may occur in the future and their answers will help you keep your wits about you.

Finally, things did not ultimately work out between Michele and me, but when we got divorced, we agreed we would try and do what was best for the kids. I think she believed in me and knew I could take care of the kids when they were with me. She has always been willing to give me advice in those areas that I did not know much about.

Together we have raised two bright, engaging, and committed young adults. Carlos is a sophomore at Century College majoring in computer science and doing well. Rosa joined the Navy and is about to be stationed on the aircraft carrier George Washington. They say it takes a village—and it does!

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